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Cougars fall in playoffs to unbeaten South-Doyle

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By Dwane Wilder

KNOXVILLE—Never has a final score been so misleading.

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Anyone not watching from the stands or listening to the radio broadcast wouldn’t suspect that last Friday’s second round Class 5A state football playoff game between Campbell County and South-Doyle to be so close.

The unbeaten Cherokees won 48-33, but only after the Cougars lost a six-point lead and self-destructed during the final two and a half minutes.

South-Doyle (12-0) advanced to host last year’s state runner-up Knoxville West in the state quarterfinals this week. Meanwhile, Campbell County (9-3) ended a spectacular two-year run led by the winningest senior class in school history.

“We are all so proud of the way our players played,” Cougars head coach Justin Price said. “We were either tied or in the lead until three minutes to go in the game. Both teams made big plays. We were just a few plays short.”

Coming off a one-point win over Morristown West the previous week, Campbell County rode a wave of momentum into its showdown with the Cherokees and their lightning-quick tailback Jocquez Bruce, a University of Tennessee recruit.

The Cougars put the first points on the scoreboard halfway through the opening quarter on the first of two rushing touchdowns by senior Trey Torres. From that point on, Campbell County never trailed until the 2:22 mark of the fourth quarter. The Cougars either held the lead or were tied with the Cherokees. The game was tied at 6-6, 13-13 (at halftime) and 27-27.

Campbell County’s second TD, a one-yard run by Torres, came after the Cougars blocked a field goal attempt and Dakota Wilson scooped up the loose ball and raced downfield before being tackled short of the goal line.

Senior quarterback Ethan Jeffers, who passed for 250 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 95 yards and another score, connected with Torres on a 33-yard TD to open the second half scoring. Gustavo Rosas kicked the extra-point for a 20-13 Campbell County lead with 4:16 left in the third quarter.

The Cougars had another big play two minutes later when Jeffers uncorked a bomb to senior wideout Joseph Elkins, who caught the ball along the left sideline and evaded a defender while scoring a 65-yard touchdown.

Jeffers played the game in memory of his grandmother, who passed away the day after he set a school-record with 501 passing yards in the victory over Morristown West.

“South Doyle was a very fast and physical team, but they weren’t unbeatable,” Jeffers said. “We had the win, we just came up a few plays short. And, as far as my senior season goes, I think my senior class has changed the culture of Campbell County Football. Our mindset, from the beginning, was to do things that have never been done, and, 25 wins later, we ended up doing things that haven’t been done before and things that people didn’t think we could do.”

Bruce singlehandedly kept South-Doyle in the game with 207 yards and three touchdowns rushing and 120 yards and another TD on four catches.

Jeffers ran for a 5-yard score with 5:25 remaining in the fourth quarter to put Campbell County in the lead for the last time, 33-27. The Cherokees blocked Rosas’ extra-point kick.

South-Doyle quarterback Brody Rollins scored twice and Bruce once over the final 2:22. The second TD by Rollins, with 43 seconds left, put the game out of Campbell County’s reach.

“The blocked extra point was a big play for them, but we had a few more shots at the end,” Price said. “We decided to let them score to keep it an 8-point game and get the ball back with around two minutes to go. It was one of our most complete games against a very talented team.”

Senior safety Trey Torres led the Cougars on defense with 10 solo tackles.

“We had to say goodbye to a group of special seniors,” Price said. “It’s not the wins or records that make them special. The way they believed in our program and each other was powerful. Their legacy will lead us into the future, and we will continue to build on it.”